If there’s something most people enjoyed as kids, it’s making paper planes. Didn’t we all wish we could magically control the folded piece of paper as we would a remote-controlled plane? Well, Paper planes just got a serious upgrade. Israeli company PowerUp Toys has found a way to enable you to remote-control them using a real airplane motor and an iPhone. They call this invention PowerUp 3.0.
In the words of the founder, Shai Goitein, “This is all about making magic.” The company allows one to attach a motor to a paper plane and see it soar for 10 minutes with a range of 180 feet. The motor is entirely controlled by an iPhone app.
By tilting your phone, you can control the high-precision rudder, directing the plane either right or left. The touch screen also features a thrust lever you can slide to increase propeller speed and allow the airplane to gain and maintain altitude.
We know, it sounds like one of those cool ideas that never make it into reality. But PowerUp Toys has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance PowerUp 3.0, almost doubling its $50, 000 goal in the first 24 hours of a 60 day campaign.
Micro technology makes magic
The PowerUp system uses the iPhone to communicate via Bluetooth Smart (a lower energy version of Bluetooth). This allows users to control the thrust and rudder, giving them full control over the airplane.
A former pilot, Goitein wanted to share the joy of flying with both children and adults. The idea for his current startup has its roots in volunteer work that Goitein was doing in 2007. “We started this from a very simple idea. I was an aviator enthusiast for many years, ” he tells NoCamels. “What happened was that I was working with immigrant kids here, teaching them aerodynamics in the evenings. And I did some research and came upon some of the new things that are happening in micro-aviation.”
This was how Goitein discovered new technological advances in the field of aviation, then decided to apply them to paper airplanes.
By 2011, he had created a remote-controlled paper airplane. Later, he partnered up with German company TobyRich, and the two worked on making his invention even more original by integrating Bluetooth Smart technology in the gadget. After two years of research and 57 different prototypes, Goitein finally arrived at an iPhone-controlled paper airplane with a rechargeable, light weight battery.
Fusing art with technology
If an iPhone controlled paper airplane wasn’t enough, another interesting aspect of PowerUp is its ability to combine art with technology. The company takes two seemingly opposite fields, the classic Japanese art form of origami and micro-motors, and brings them together for an ultra-creative toy. “It’s a new concept, a brand that focuses on innovative toys that are a fuse between origami creations and technology, ” Goitein tells NoCamels.
The motor itself is smaller than the size of an American quarter dollar coin, has 10 minutes of flying time and can be easily charged using a micro-USB cable.
The company may provide the tools, but it certainly leaves plenty of leeway for the customer to get exactly what they want out of the invention. “We’re providing a conversion kit for paper airplanes. So, the customers create the gadget themselves. You can create your own airplane, you can print your own templates. It’s a creative idea, ” Goitein notes. “In a way, we’re letting customers be involved in the design process, which is interesting.”
An aviator through and through
Goitein has been interested in planes since the age of seven. Starting out with paper planes, he then moved on to gliders as he got older and eventually spent 15 years as a cargo pilot for the Israeli air force. Afterwards, he worked in industrial design and as a senior manager of B2B product design for Kodak for 10 years.
In 2012, his first project won the ATA Best Hobby Award and was even featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Recently, after showcasing an early prototype of PowerUp 3.0 at the New York Toy Fair, his invention won the Popular Science “Best of Toyfair” Award.
The company has already developed a paper boat version of the toy and intends to further broaden their product line. They are also interested in introducing more concepts for this kind of integration between technology and art, creating hands-on engagement toys for children.
Although the products are not currently available for sale, you can pre-order one on the aforementioned successful Kickstarter campaign. The first PowerUp 3.0′s will ship in May 2014.